SUPER BOWL: From O'Brien to Vinatieri, big game's most crucial kicks

The Associated Press
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In tis Feb. 1, 2004, file photo, Carolina Panthers' Matt Willig, left rear, watches as New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, right front, is mobbed by his teammates after kicking a 41-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to beat the Panthers 32-29 in NFL football's Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston. When the Super Bowl comes down to the kicker, all eyes are on the smallest guy on the field.

When the Super Bowl comes down to the kicker, all eyes are on the smallest, least athletic guy on the field.

There's only been one win-or-lose field-goal attempt in the first 49 years. Three other tie games were decided by a kicker who had the protection of overtime in case he missed.

Many NFL fans and players hate to see games determined by a kicker's foot, and that sentiment is amplified when the Vince Lombardi Trophy is on the line.

People prefer to see Montana to Taylor or Manning to Burress at the end rather than Scott Norwood or Adam Vinatieri lining up for a kick.

Three of the most crucial kicks in Super Bowl history:

WIDE RIGHT: It was 25 years ago when Scott Norwood became perhaps the most well-known kicker in NFL history for all the wrong reasons. The Bills trailed the Giants 20-19 and Jim Kelly drove the offence from its 10 to New York's 29 using a combination of scrambles, runs by Thurman Thomas and a couple passes.

With no time-outs remaining, Norwood lined up on second down to try a 47-yard field goal that would've given Buffalo its first Super Bowl title. The ball sailed wide right and the Giants celebrated the victory.

Despite the most famous miss in NFL history, Norwood was treated well by most Bills fans. They chanted his name until he addressed the crowd at a rally in Buffalo days after the loss.

Buffalo went on to lose the next three Super Bowls.

MR. CLUTCH Part 1: The New England Patriots were 14-point underdogs against the St. Louis Rams, who were going for their second Super Bowl title in three years in 2002.

But Tom Brady and Co. wanted to shock the world. After Kurt Warner threw a 26-yard TD pass to Ricky Proehl to tie the game with 1:37 left, the Patriots started the final drive at their 17.

Brady tossed three short passes to J.R. Redmond to move to the 41. A 23-yard pass to Troy Brown and 6-yard toss to Jermaine Wiggins set up Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard attempt with 7 seconds left.

Vinatieri nailed it, sending the Patriots to the first of their four Super Bowl wins.

MR. CLUTCH Part 2: Two years later, the Patriots were at it again. A wild, back-and-forth fourth quarter with the Carolina Panthers featured 37 points combined.

Ricky Proehl caught another tying TD pass, a 12-yard toss from Jake Delhomme to make it 29-29 with 1:08 left. But John Kasay's kickoff went out of bounds and the Patriots started at their 40.

Brady connected with Brown for a pair of 13-yard passes sandwiched around an offensive pass interference penalty on Brown. A 17-yard pass to Deion Branch set up Vinatieri for a 41-yard try with 9 seconds left. Vinatieri hit it straight to give New England a 32-29 win and its second Super Bowl in three years.

Honourable Mention:

Super Bowl 5: Colts rookie kicker Jim O'Brien kicked a 32-yard field goal with 5 seconds left to beat Dallas 16-13.

Super Bowl 23: Cincinnati's Jim Breech hit a 40-yarder to give the Bengals a 16-13 lead with 3:44 left only to watch Joe Montana lead the 49ers to a comeback win.

Organizations: NFL, New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams Carolina Panthers Deion Branch Bengals

Geographic location: Buffalo, New York, New England Cincinnati

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